My indigenous aunties taught me to champion our culture through style

My indigenous aunties taught me to champion our culture through style

By Manoa Dawaibalavu
Tuesday 05/04/2022
A Navajo elder weaves a blanket in ArizonaPhoto: Getty Images

Growing up on Nipissing First Nation—my Indigenous territory in Ontario, Canada—someone in my big, crazy family was always creating. My mother is Ojibwe and one of 18 siblings, and when we weren’t all gathering for a gigantic Sunday breakfast at my grandmother Leda’s home, you would find my aunties either cooking, sewing, or beading on their own accord.

Walking into any one of my auntie’s houses, you’d always see a project in action—they could be making my sister’s jingle dress for the summer powwow, or crafting a pair of fur-lined moccasins for my cousin’s upcoming birthday.

Though my reservation is remote and hours away from any big city, witnessing this constant designing-in-action on the rez is what, as I would later realize, ignited my love for fashion. After all, I was witnessing special, handmade creations come to life almost on the daily.

My aunties’ flair for creating such beautiful objects, like my beaded fur mittens, is not unique to my family tree. In many Indigenous families, aunties are the matriarchs who carry forward our traditions.

Though the moniker “Native auntie” is more of a term of endearment for Indigenous elders.

They can be your literal aunts, a close family friend, or a respected figure in your community.

Regardless, they teach the next generation our tribe’s special customs, so that we can continue championing our heritage and keeping our culture alive.

This is especially important given our people’s history; there was once a time where our customs were legally banned. Of course, Indigenous women have always played a crucial role in maintaining the wellbeing of our communities.

Historically, women were respected for being craftwork artists, healers, and damn good cooks.

Today, aunties continue to be the pillars of our communities, ensuring our past is carried into the present.

This has certainly been true within my own family.

My sister and my cousins have all learned how to sew or bead the Ojibwe way, thanks to the guidance of our talented aunties (intricate floral beadwork is an Ojibwe signature).

Though I’ve never possessed a talent for craftwork, I have embraced Indigenous style in my own way.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with my mom and my aunties to design my own traditional garments, all of which are embedded with special meaning.

The first thing we made together was in 2020.

My mother, and my aunties Joan, Lee, and Tammy, and I decided to make my first traditional ribbon shirt.

It was based on a shirt my grandmother had made for me as a kid, though we updated the ribbon colors to reflect who I am today (the blue, red, yellow, and white hues represent the favorite colors of my parents and grandparents).

An image of a crane, embroidered onto the back, reflects my family’s crane clan.

In Ojibwe culture, Indigenous people belong to one of seven clans, each one holding different responsibilities and qualities (the crane clan represents leadership.)

FEATURE NEWS
Pryde is entitled to be paid salaries until he is removed from office - Rabuka
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has stated that the suspended Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde is entitled to continue receiving his ...
12 hours ago
LATEST NEWS
PM calls for Online Safety Commission to take action after alleged cyberbullying tragedy
Following allegations that a member of the LGBTIQ+ community was driven to take their own life after getting cyberbullied, Prime Minister Sitiveni ...
10 hours ago

WOWS Kids Foundation seeks donations to aid children with cancer at Fiji Showcase
The WOWS Kids Foundation is seeking assistance from the public and business houses to support the work they do in assisting children living with ...
10 hours ago

21 reps from 7 political parties undergo workshop with FEO
21 representatives from the 7 registered political parties in Fiji participated in a 3-day "Introduction to Elections" workshop with the Fijian ...
11 hours ago

Two 15-year-old students questioned for alleged drug possession at school
Two 15-year-old students have been questioned for allegedly possessing methamphetamine and marijuana on school premises. Assistant Commissioner of ...
11 hours ago

FCCC assesses if duty protections on items are benefiting consumers
The FCCC is currently looking at the price of items that currently enjoy duty protection to assess whether those tax concessions and the benefits are ...
11 hours ago



fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan
Latest Videos

Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations

CFL radio frequencies
yb
IN DEPTH
2024-2025 National Budget address by the Minister for Finance
2024-2025 National Budget address by the Minister for Finance Prof. Biman Prasad. 2024-2025 Budget ...
6 days ago

Crisis within FijiFirst that led to its deregistration
The FijiFirst Party has been de-registered by the Registrar of Political Parties, Ana Mataiciwa. This is the end of the party that led government ...
10 days ago

Pre-Budget 2024-2025
Pre Budget 2024-2025 budget recommendations and an insight of what people on the ground wish to see in the National Budget
16 days ago

TOP